Turning Fear into a Memorable Experience

Bar Mitzvah TorahOver a year ago, my family debated whether my older son should have a regular bar mitzvah or a smaller one that doesn’t involve the full three hour Saturday morning service. He has a few challenges and we feared adding another one in preparing for this rite of passage.
We did a lot of back-and-forthing before we decided to do the whole shebang. Yes, it meant practicing twice a day for nine months. Yes, it meant attending tutoring sessions once a week. Yes, it meant practicing even after coming home late from a football practice or game and still having homework to do.
In nine months, he only missed five practice sessions not counting the time he was away at camp. During football season, this guy made an effort to do one practice session in the morning before catching the bus to school.
The long-awaited day came. His part came later in the service. Thankfully, I had lots going on (you know, waving to family and friends and quietly catching up with folks) to keep my mind occupied without worrying about him making it through. His big moment arrived. My body froze. I listened and watched hard.
He was getting through it. Just one brief stumble and instant correction. Almost over … stomach stirs … candy in hand … when will this end??? Silence. Men’s chorus erupted in song and candy flew.
If a ginormous sigh of relief and the swelling of pride made a sound, everyone would be looking at me. I don’t remember feeling overwhelmed with these emotions. Not even at my daughter’s bat mitzvah. (She did great and of course, I was proud.) This accomplishment meant more because of the screams, nags and tears that went into it to make it happen. “At first, I was unsure that I could complete this daring task, but now I see that I will accomplish this goal,” said my son in his speech.
What does this have to do with fear? Sometimes we’re afraid to take on a new project or client thinking we can’t deliver. There’s a difference between a challenge that stretches you and one that goes beyond your qualifications. A client asked if I would be interested in working with him. At first, the technical topic scared me and I balked in spite of having worked in the client’s industry.
I stepped back and studied the situation. This was the kind of work that would help me grow. I had the qualifications. My experience in the industry helped me ask the right questions to get the information to complete my tasks. When I finished the project, I felt like I accomplished something big. Not bar mitzvah big, but work big.
When I work on a project that comes easy, I react in the same way I did with my daughter’s bat mitzvah. Simply proud. Completing a challenging brings a bigger and more memorable sense of accomplishment like it did for me with my son. It also reminds me I can step out of my comfort zone and excel. The next time a challenge comes, I remember these moments. If my son says he can’t do something, I’ll remind him of that day on February 4, 2012 when he read one of the longest portions.
I had another opportunity to work on a project that was in the same technical industry. However, it relied on a lot of phone calls and interviews. Thanks to the relay service, I can make phone calls. But they’re a time sink and stressful. I don’t mind making calls, but not when it dominates the project.
Yes, I enjoyed every bit of the bar mitzvah. Yet, I’m glad IT’S OVER. No more practicing. No more fretting over the little details.
Have you accomplished something that felt impossible? How did it feel? How did it help?

3 thoughts on “Turning Fear into a Memorable Experience”

  1. Scary, but oh-so-amazingly-rewarding afterwards, isn’t it? When we work through fear and come out the other side, the feeling of accomplishment is like no other.
    For me, the fear thing was barefoot competition for the first time at the age of 45. But once I powered through the first one, I found the fear subsided considerably!

  2. When I was offer a challenging project I was hesitant to take it because I fear that I might not perform well but I think that if I didn’t take it, I will just stay in my comfort zone and opportunity just comes once so I decided to take it to step up.

  3. Karen — you’re amazing. I’m not far behind you and I’ve never barefooted period … or water skied.
    Keyword person 🙂 that’s exactly what holds me back sometimes — the key is to recognize it and decide whether it’s an opportunity to grow or if underqualified.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.